Atlanta kicked off their 2018 playoff run in tremendous fashion, not only securing the victory, but also tallying an away goal. They return home to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday as they look to clinch their spot in the conference finals.
For Five Stripes fans in the Upstate, there will be a watch party taking place on Sunday at Yee-Haw Brewing Company in downtown Greenville. Make sure you wear you Atlanta United gear to receive $1 off of beer cheese or guacamole.
How will this game shake out? Let’s look at what Atlanta needs to do to secure a conference final berth on Sunday.
Keys For Leg 2:
- Defensive Approach: Atlanta took a grittier approach to the match in New York than is typical of the Martino-led side. With an away goal, and the overall aggregate lead, I would not be surprised to see them start off this match the same way. In NYCFC scores the first goal though, things will quickly change.
- Yellow Card Accumulation: In the MLS Playoffs, two yellow cards leads to a one match suspension. After last weekend’s Schmergen Brawl at Yankee Stadium, three of Atlanta’s players earned a yellow card. Josef Martinez, Eric Remedi, and Tito Villalba all need to be on their best behavior Sunday so they do not miss the first leg of the conference championship.
- The Geiger Show: I am not typically a “blame the officials” kind of fan. But any true Atlanta United fan will tell you that there is one referee that has a dicey relationship with this team. His name is Mark Geiger. Even the generally amiable Tata Martino had a hard time holding back his thoughts on Geiger earlier this season. Hopefully Atlanta takes care of business early and does not allow a call on the field to hurt their chances.
Winning (and losing) Scenarios:
Atlanta United: W | L | W | W | L
New York City FC: L | W | W | L | L
In Leg 1, Atlanta took the advantage in the overall series which now stands at 2–2–1. More importantly, Atlanta holds a 1–0 lead on aggregate and has the crucial away goal.
I really think Atlanta will look to play much the same way they played the second half in New York. They will take a defensive approach and look to potentially score on a quick counter attack.
Couple that mindset with New York’s need to score 2 goals in order to secure victory, and I think you will see Atlanta have some great chances to knock a few goals in on a high-pressing NYCFC side.
I think we will see the 3–5–2, that will look and play more like a 4–4–1–1 when Larentowicz drops to the back line to defend. Barco and Villalba will both start on the bench but will be available should New York score and the mindset need to shift.
Atlanta United — 2, New York City FC — 0
Atlanta United FC vs. New York City FC, 5:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, November 11, 2018, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Game available on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.